WRHS softball in unfamiliar role: favorite

Senior Katie Alfiere hopes to pitch Woodland to its first-ever league championship.

Senior Katie Alfiere hopes to pitch Woodland to its first-ever league championship.

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls’ softball squad is the winningest team in the history of sports in the Woods—the diamond girls have won 116 games, while the next closest is baseball’s 99 wins. For all those wins, though, there are no softball championship banners hanging in the Woodland gym.

That very well may change this year.

Coming off a school-record 21-win season and appearances in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament final and Class M state tournament semifinal, the Hawks return seven starters and are not only the odds-on favorites to win their first NVL championship but also are strong contenders to claim the Class M crown.

Just because they are the favorites, though, doesn’t mean the Hawks think they’re untouchable in the always-competitive NVL. Many of Woodland’s championship hopes rest on the right arm of senior pitcher Katie Alfiere, and she knows being preseason favorites means nothing come game time.

“We’re favored in the NVL, but we still have to perform,” said Alfiere, who will pitch for Division I Quinnipiac University next spring. “If we let one game slip away, somebody’s going to take advantage. We’re not unbeatable.”

Unbeatable, maybe not. Hard to beat, definitely. Alfiere is not only the top returning pitcher in the NVL but also one of the top hurlers in the state. She compiled a 10-4 record in 2009 with a 1.07 ERA, 157 strikeouts and 28 walks en route to earning all-NVL honors.

“She is a skilled pitcher and a great athlete,” head coach Loren Luddy said. “Katie has trained hard and is ready to lead the team and pitch as many games as the team needs her to.”

Alfiere will also be at the heart of Woodland’s offense, which may be the most potent in the league. She racked up a .366 average with 20 RBIs hitting in the middle of the Hawks’ order last year. In addition to performing to her usual, high standards, Alfiere plans to relish her last year playing in Beacon Falls.

“I want to do well and I want to make a name for myself,” Alfiere said. “I just want to enjoy my senior year. This is the last time I get to play with these girls that I’ve played with since sixth grade. We all have our expectations, but we all want to go have fun and hopefully win.”

One thing that should be fun this season is watching the Black and Gold put up runs, which probably won’t come at a premium. Woodland returns most of its lineup, including all-NVL senior shortstop Aubrey Roulanaitis, who hit .372 in 2009 with 36 RBI and 29 runs, and senior first baseman Kaiti Lembo, who posted a .354 average with 25 RBI last year.

“We have a solid core of returning players who really came together at the end of last season,” Luddy said. “We hope to build on that momentum, quickly fill the open spots in our lineup, and start out strong. We’d love to be able to compete for the Brass Division title and perform well in the NVL and state tournaments.”

Those open spots come on the left side of the field, at third base and left field. Woodland likely will look toward sophomore Emily Wirsing to play the hot corner, while junior Kara Hames currently holds down the fort in left field. Other returning starters include senior Emily Hutvagner at second, senior Lindsey Wirsing in center field, junior Lindsay Boland in right and junior Rebecca Norton at catcher.

Though the Hawks are considered favorites around the league, they know there’s plenty of work to do.

“We’re a good team but we’re not perfect,” Alfiere said. “We have a lot of stuff we have to work on, but everybody else does, too.”